Lawsuit targets Nebraska horse racing measure

Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – A Nebraska anti-gambling group has filed a lawsuit to keep off the November ballot a measure that would allow betting on previously recorded horse races shown on machines that resemble casino slots.

Gambling with the Good Life said on July 29 that it filed the lawsuit a day earlier, alleging that the measure would violate the Nebraska Constitution’s provision against asking voters to answer two or more questions in just one vote.

The group’s attorney, Steve Grasz, said the filing asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to bar Secretary of State John Gale from putting what would be Amendment 1 on the statewide ballot.

Recently, Gale rejected a request that he keep the measure off the ballot.

Although the language of the amendment contains more than one subject, Gale said, it “connects its subjects together to be part of one general subject.” He acknowledged the possibility that his decision would be challenged in court.

The lawsuit pointed at one portion of the ballot language that said the measure would let the Legislature enact laws for the licensing and regulation of betting on live or replayed horse races. The lawsuit also said the ballot language asks voters to approve how the taxes on the betting would be divided.

Voters have but one vote to answer those two questions, Grasz said.

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would clear the way for the video terminals at licensed tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Grand Island and Columbus.

Supporters have said the machines would help Nebraska’s horse racing industry, which has struggled for decades as other games became more popular and neighboring states built casinos. The measure also is backed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation because of horse racing’s ties to agriculture and its support for 4-H programs.

Gambling opponents such as Gambling with the Good Life have said the machines would effectively open the door to casino gambling because they run as fast as regular slots and can be just as addictive. Nor are they likely to save traditional horse racing, according to Pat Loontjer, executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, citing Nebraska tracks that hold as few as one live race a year.